Share 12 Contemporary British Novels We Can’t Live Without

12 Contemporary British Novels We Can’t Live Without

Caitlin Kleinschmidt is part of the sales team at Workman Publishing. She has previously held positions at Viking/Riverhead, Simon & Schuster, Oxford University Press, and Macmillan. A Navy brat, she lived on both coasts and credits the Dear America series for her lifelong love of history. She has a special place in her heart for narrative nonfiction, as well as books about Eastern Europe and ballet.

As a lifelong Anglophile, I have worshipped at the altar of Austen, Brontë, and Dickens ever since I received my first copy of Pride and Prejudice in the fourth grade. But British literature goes far beyond the country manors and moody moors of the nineteenth century. Here are twelve fantastic novels from some of the most exciting contemporary novelists across the pond that every self-respecting Anglophile should read.


White Teeth
by Zadie Smith

WHITE TEETH plays out its bounding, vibrant course in a Jamaican hair salon in North London, an Indian restaurant in Leicester Square, an Irish poolroom turned immigrant café, a liberal public school, and a sleek science institute, while it takes on faith, race, gender, history, and culture. Zadie Smith's dazzling first novel is not to be missed.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo
White Teeth
Zadie Smith

At the center of this invigorating novel are two unlikely friends, Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal. Hapless veterans of World War II, Archie and Samad and their families become agents of England’s irrevocable transformation. Zadie Smith’s dazzling debut caught critics grasping for comparisons and deciding on everyone from Charles Dickens to Salman Rushdie to John Irving and Martin Amis. But the truth is that Zadie Smith’s voice is remarkably, fluently, and altogether wonderfully her own.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo

MENTIONED IN:

17 Amazing Books Featured in the “Fahrenheit 451” Movie

By Sarah Jane Abbott | July 19, 2018

Celebrate the Fourth of July with These 9 Great American Reads

By Off the Shelf Staff | July 4, 2018

Three Cheers for the Red, White, and Blue: 9 Books to Enjoy for the Fourth of July

By Allison Tyler | July 4, 2017

12 Contemporary British Novels We Can’t Live Without

By Caitlin Kleinschmidt | April 26, 2016

Out of the Mouths of Babes: Debut Novelists Under 30

By Off the Shelf Staff | January 27, 2015

A Brilliant Debut That Continues to Enthrall

By Siriu Huang | February 27, 2014

Close

The Paying Guests
by Sarah Waters

Sarah Waters earned a reputation as one of Britain’s great writers of historical fiction, and here she delivers again. A love story, a tension-filled crime story, and a beautifully atmospheric portrait of 1920s London, this is her finest achievement yet.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo
The Paying Guests
Sarah Waters

Sarah Waters earned a reputation as one of Britain’s great writers of historical fiction, and here she delivers again. A love story, a tension-filled crime story, and a beautifully atmospheric portrait of 1920s London, this is her finest achievement yet.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo

MENTIONED IN:

14 Extra-Long Reads to Cure Your Winter Blues

By Sarah Jane Abbott | February 1, 2019

9 Books I Can’t Stop Thinking About

By Taylor Noel | September 4, 2017

12 Contemporary British Novels We Can’t Live Without

By Caitlin Kleinschmidt | April 26, 2016

Close

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
by Neil Gaiman

This poignant fairy tale from the modern master of wonder is a bewitching and harrowing story of mystery and survival, memory and magic.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo
The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Neil Gaiman

An imaginative and poignant adult fairy tale from the modern master of wonder and terror. This bewitching and harrowing story of mystery, survival, memory, and magic makes the impossible all too real.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo

MENTIONED IN:

8 More Wonderful Epigraphs to Kick Off 2019

By Nikki Barnhart | January 31, 2019

5 Books to Read if You Love READY PLAYER ONE

By Meagan Harris | April 4, 2018

A Peek Behind Sarah Jane’s Shelf

By Off the Shelf Staff | February 22, 2018

12 Contemporary British Novels We Can’t Live Without

By Caitlin Kleinschmidt | April 26, 2016

14 Recommended Reads From Reese Witherspoon

By Tolani Osan | December 1, 2015

A Horror Story Dressed As a Fairy Tale

By Sarah Jane Abbott | November 18, 2014

Close

Cloud Atlas
by David Mitchell

A visionary voice in twenty-first century fiction, David Mitchell combines a keen eye for character and a taste for mind-bending philosophical and scientific speculation to explore fundamental questions of reality and identity.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo
Cloud Atlas
David Mitchell

In a narrative that traverses centuries and space, David Mitchell reveals how his disparate characters connect, how their fates intertwine, and how their souls drift across time like clouds across the sky. It is a daring exploration of reality and identity.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo

MENTIONED IN:

#LastLines: 18 Perfect Book Quotes to Celebrate the End 2018

By Kerry Fiallo | December 31, 2018

8 Books You’ll Want to Read If You’re a Fan of “Westworld”

By Elizabeth Breeden | January 31, 2017

12 Contemporary British Novels We Can’t Live Without

By Caitlin Kleinschmidt | April 26, 2016

9 Literary Novels That Sparkle With the Magical and Surreal

By Caitlin Kleinschmidt | March 31, 2016

11 Artfully Interwoven Episodic Tales

By Off the Shelf Staff | November 3, 2015

11 Musical Novels That Hit All The Right Notes

By Emma Volk | September 1, 2015

Close

Life After Life
by Kate Atkinson

If there were an infinite number of chances to live your life, would you be able to save the world from its own destiny? Wildly inventive, darkly comic, and startlingly poignant, this is Kate Atkinson at her absolute best.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo
Life After Life
Kate Atkinson

During a snowstorm in 1910, a baby is born. She dies before she can draw her first breath. During a snowstorm in 1910, the same baby is born and lives. What if there were an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you be able to save the world from its own destiny? What power can one woman exert over the fate of civilization as she lives through the turbulent events of the twentieth century again and again?

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo

MENTIONED IN:

A Game of Books: What Would Your Favorite Game of Thrones Character Read?

By Will Rhino | July 11, 2017

Let’s Do the Time Warp Again: 11 Books to Celebrate Daylight Saving Time

By Julianna Haubner | March 9, 2017

12 Innovative Books to Get You Out of Your Reading Rut

By Erica Nelson | October 4, 2016

12 Contemporary British Novels We Can’t Live Without

By Caitlin Kleinschmidt | April 26, 2016

10 Tantalizing Tales to Ease Your Downton Abbey Withdrawal

By Off the Shelf Staff | March 3, 2016

11 Artfully Interwoven Episodic Tales

By Off the Shelf Staff | November 3, 2015

Close

Wolf Hall
by Hilary Mantel

One of Britain’s most accomplished, acclaimed, and garlanded writers, Hilary Mantel brutally and acutely recreates Tudor England in this Man Booker Prize–winning novel. She deploys her gifts for penetrating, unsparing characterization to breathe thrilling new life into the well-trodden territory of Henry VIII and his court.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo
Wolf Hall
Hilary Mantel

In the ruthless arena of King Henry VIII’s court, only Thomas Cromwell dares to gamble his life to win the king’s favor and ascend to the heights of political power. Wolf Hall re-creates an era when the personal and political are separated by a hairbreadth, where success brings unlimited power but a single failure means death.

“At New Year’s he had given Anne a present of silver forks. . . . He hopes she will use them to eat with, not to stick in people.” —Hilary Mantel

Claire: “What should we server the Walkers?”
Frank: “Cyanide.”
Claire: “I’m saving that for dessert. . . .”

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo

MENTIONED IN:

11 Literary Historical Novels You Need to Read

By Liza Wieland | July 16, 2019

12 Authors I Desperately Need New Books From

By Taylor Noel | April 16, 2018

12 Contemporary British Novels We Can’t Live Without

By Caitlin Kleinschmidt | April 26, 2016

11 Binge-Worthy Literary Series

By Emma Volk | August 27, 2015

Beat the Heat With These Summer Book Club Picks

By Julianna Haubner | June 30, 2015

The House of Cards Book Club

By Off the Shelf Staff | March 5, 2015

Close

In a Dark, Dark Wood
by Ruth Ware

What should be a cozy and fun-filled weekend in the English countryside takes a sinister turn in this gripping, suspenseful, and darkly twisted literary debut.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo
In a Dark, Dark Wood
Ruth Ware

During a weekend away with a friend in an eerie glass house, crime writer Leonora wakes up in a hospital bed injured wondering not “What happened?” but “What have I done?” This one is for fans of GONE GIRL and THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo

MENTIONED IN:

8 Psychological Thrillers With Twists You Won’t See Coming

By Off the Shelf Staff | May 28, 2019

10 Books You Can Swap with Mom This Mother’s Day

By Off the Shelf Staff | May 6, 2019

Readers’ Choice: The Top 25 Most Shelved Books of All Time

By Off the Shelf Staff | March 29, 2019

What Book Should You Read Based on Your Zodiac Sign?

By Lara Blackman | October 1, 2018

13 Authors We Love on National Author’s Day

By Off the Shelf Staff | November 1, 2017

13 Most Shelved Books on Off the Shelf in 2016

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 13, 2016

Close

The Girl Next Door
by Ruth Rendell

The discovery of human remains in a long-forgotten tin box sends shockwaves across a group of longtime friends in this psychologically explosive story from the late Ruth Rendell, the grand dame of British crime writing.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo
The Girl Next Door
Ruth Rendell

In the waning months of the Second World War, a group of children discover an earthen tunnel that becomes their “secret garden.” Six decades later, on the same land, construction workers uncover a tin box containing two skeletal hands. Is the truth behind this psychologically explosive story buried among these long-time friends and their memories?

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo

MENTIONED IN:

12 Contemporary British Novels We Can’t Live Without

By Caitlin Kleinschmidt | April 26, 2016

Remembering Ruth Rendell: Britain’s Essential Crime Writer

By Caitlin Kleinschmidt | June 11, 2015

Close

Me Before You
by JoJo Moyes

Ever since she debuted stateside, Americans have fallen in love with Jojo Moyes and her opposites-attract love stories. This is the word-of-mouth sensation that put her on the map. You’ll laugh, you’ll weep, and when you turn the last page, you’ll want to start all over again.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo
Me Before You
JoJo Moyes

Will Traynor is an attractive but brooding young man grieving the life he lived before the terrible accident that left him paralyzed. Louisa Clark is the quirky and charming young woman that Will’s parents hire to cheer him up and remind him that life is worth living. You will fall as hard and deeply in love with Will as Louisa does.

Read the review of ME BEFORE YOU and AFTER YOU.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo

MENTIONED IN:

Your Fave “Game of Thrones” Actors Have Also Starred in These Adaptations

By Amy Cardoza | May 10, 2019

Readers’ Choice: The Top 25 Most Shelved Books of All Time

By Off the Shelf Staff | March 29, 2019

11 Books That Will Make You Ugly Cry

By Taylor Noel | June 12, 2017

What Happens After Happily-Ever-After?

By Tolani Osan | January 11, 2017

12 Contemporary British Novels We Can’t Live Without

By Caitlin Kleinschmidt | April 26, 2016

11 Unconventional Love Stories to Set Your Heart Pitter-Pattering

By Erica Nelson | February 11, 2016

Close

Atonement
by Ian McEwan

A symphonic and heartbreaking novel of love and war, childhood and class, and guilt and forgiveness that provides all the satisfaction of a brilliant narrative and the provocation we have come to expect from this master of English prose.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo
Atonement
Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan’s symphonic novel of love and war, childhood and class, guilt and forgiveness provides all the satisfaction of a brilliant narrative and the provocation we have come to expect from this master of English prose. Benedict is the icky Paul Marshall. His scene with the candy bar is worth every penny.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo

MENTIONED IN:

15 Stories of Betrayal to Read for the Ides of March

By Taylor Noel | March 15, 2017

12 Contemporary British Novels We Can’t Live Without

By Caitlin Kleinschmidt | April 26, 2016

9 Favorites from the Shelf of a Treasured Author

By Off the Shelf Staff | November 23, 2015

Remembrance of Things Past: 12 Moving Novels of the Second World War

By Caitlin Kleinschmidt | May 7, 2015

Revisiting Ian McEwan’s Masterpiece

By Courtney Brach | February 13, 2015

Sexy, Smart and Charming: Book Characters That Benedict Cumberbatch Made Better

By Off the Shelf Staff | May 22, 2014

Close

The Sense of an Ending
by Julian Barnes

A novel so compelling that it begs to be read in a single sitting, this Man Booker Prize–winning novel of stunning psychological and emotional depth and sophistication is a brilliant new chapter in Julian Barnes’s oeuvre.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo
The Sense of an Ending
Julian Barnes

A novel so compelling that it begs to be read in a single sitting, this Man Booker Prize–winning novel of stunning psychological and emotional depth and sophistication is a brilliant new chapter in Julian Barnes’s oeuvre.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo

MENTIONED IN:

12 Contemporary British Novels We Can’t Live Without

By Caitlin Kleinschmidt | April 26, 2016

Close

Little Bee
by Chris Cleave

This novel of a young Nigerian refugee seeking asylum in Great Britain is a story of uncertainty, courage, and profound humanity rendered in brutal yet gorgeous prose.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo
Little Bee
Chris Cleave

It was Little Bee’s voice that first knocked me out. It’s musical, it’s magical, and it’s joyful. And yet, this sixteen-year-old Nigerian girl has experienced unspeakable horrors. Chris Cleave’s novel is brutal and beautiful at the same time.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo

MENTIONED IN:

Enter for a Chance to Win 15 Vacation Reads and Summer Essentials to Kick Off the Season!

By Off the Shelf Staff | May 24, 2018

12 Contemporary British Novels We Can’t Live Without

By Caitlin Kleinschmidt | April 26, 2016

How Far Would You Go to Help a Stranger?

By Marysue Rucci | March 21, 2016

14 Must-Read Books Set Under the African Sun

By Emma Volk | January 12, 2016

12 Favorite Novels from a Longtime Industry Insider

By Wendy Sheanin | August 20, 2015

Close

Thank you for joining our email list!

If you create an Off the Shelf account, you'll be able to save books to your personal bookshelf, and be eligible for free books and other good stuff.

Click here to create your free account.

You must be logged in to add books to your shelf.

Please log in or sign up now.